It seems appropriate that on the day before Christmas I’m writing about yet another Neymar transfer rumour. Despite his oft-repeated intention to stay at Santos—at least for the time being—the 20-year-old nevertheless remains atop the wishlist of almost every European club that can afford him.
For three years talent scouts have been dispatched to the Vila with care, in hopes that Neymar soon would be theirs.
Manchester City’s Txiki Begiristain is just the latest club official to have made the pilgrimage to Santos, where he is thought to have spent two days making overtures to the São Paulo side and the player’s other rights-holders regarding a move to Eastlands at the end of the Premier League season.
City are by no means the only club with designs on prying Neymar from the Vila Belmiro before the 2014 World Cup, which is widely understood to be the point in time when the world’s best footballer not currently playing in Europe will most seriously entertain offers from the other side of the Atlantic. But their interest did find its way into the English press, and while that in and of itself doesn’t make such rumours worth addressing, the resulting commotion and potential misunderstanding of the situation probably warrants a brief response.
So here it is.
Neymar is not leaving Santos in January, in July or at any other time ahead of the next World Cup. Santos have no desire to sell him; they have no need to sell him. Their financial situation, where sponsors and third parties have significant economic stakes in the player, nevermind sky-rocketing television revenues, means they can not only keep him, but also continue to contribute to a wage packet worth about €1.1 million per month.
As Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveiro Ribeiro reiterated in September, the Peixe are in a better financial position than many European clubs, anyway, and thus ideally situated to hold on to Neymar for as long as he wishes to remain in Brazil.
That said, footballers are transferred regardless of value or stature or home comforts and there will likely be a day when Neymar becomes just the latest big-name player to make a big-money move. It’s the reality of the sport.
But that day has yet to arrive, and if and when it does it’s highly unlikely the destination will be City. The second-biggest club in Manchester barely resonates at all in Brazil—something that was best revealed when Robinho went there from Real Madrid in 2008 after claiming he had never really heard of the club.
If, a year-and-a-half from now, Santos and Neymar’s various rights-holders had to pick between a handful of comparable offers (something that will become all the more likely as the Financial Fair Play regulations come into effect) they’d be far more inclined to do a deal with Barcelona or Real Madrid. The prestige of negotiating with one of the Spanish giants would be far more palatable to both the club and the club’s fans than holding talks with Manchester City.
Then there is the little matter of the rumoured pre-agreement between Neymar and Barcelona. It has never been proven, but in September the outlet Sport claimed the current Primera Division leaders had already made a €10 million down-payment on the player, and that if Neymar wished to renege on the accord he, or the club he opted to join, would have to pay a €40 million indemnification fee.
Again, neither Barcelona nor Neymar have ever confirmed this report, and a few months ago Neymar’s father joked in an interview that his son “was sold two years ago…but we’re still here!”
It should also be pointed out that Begiristain’s visit received no meaningful coverage in the Brazilian press. A suitor deplaning in São Paulo with the express purpose of courting Neymar is hardly news, and the fact that Begiristain was representing Manchester City would have been seen, if not as embarrassing, then as something of a joke.
As a matter of fact, Neymar’s presence in the local papers since the Campeonato Brasileiro came to an end has been limited to his nomination for FIFA’s Puskas award and the occasional photo and caption of him handing out Christmas presents to children. Much of the talk surrounding Santos ahead of the state championship is in regards to the club’s latest hot-shot youngster, Gabriel Barbosa—better known as Gabigol.
Just 16-years-old, Gabigol already has a €50 million release clause written into his contract despite the fact that he has yet to make his senior debut for the club. (He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page just yet.) That is likely to change in the coming months, however, as he looks to catch manager Muricy Ramalho’s eye while contesting the Copa Sao Pãulo with the U-20s.
A two-footed attacking midfielder who can play both in the centre and on either flank, Gabigol has been on the books at Santos since he was eight years old and recently won the public admiration of the club’s junior coach, Claudinei, who praised the youngster’s “great quality and good finishing,” adding, “He still has to evolve tactically, but that’s normal.”
Flamengo close in on Robinho: Robinho’s desire to leave AC Milan in January is hardly a secret. Indeed, it was confirmed by Rossoneri vice president Adriano Galliani, who on Monday arrived in Rio de Janeiro. Galliani is viewed positively at Flamengo for his part in the Rio side’s acquisition of Ronaldinho in 2011, and when asked by a reporter if a deal for Robinho was possible he replied, simply, “It’s possible, yes.”
In 2010 Robinho, now 28-years-old, played some of the best football of his career for Santos while on loan from Manchester City. And while the São Paulo side are interested in bringing the player back for a third stint at the Vila Belmiro, Flamengo are thought to be most keen on his signature and are willing to meet Milan’s €10 million valuation.
While in Brazil Galliani will also be trying to find a new home for out-of-favour striker Alexandre Pato, who is a transfer target of Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup champions Corinthians.
“I planned my trip to Brazil a few months ago,” said Galliani. It will be all about work. We have two ongoing negotiations. Pato and Robinho asked to leave Milan.”
Boca & Corinthians mull striker swap: Carlos Bianchi, who will begin a third stint in charge of Boca Juniors in the New Year, is hoping to make Juan Manuel Martinez his first major acquisition since being re-installed as manager at La Bombonera.
Martinez, 27, is deemed surplus to requirements at Corinthians, who already have Paulo Guerrero, Emerson Sheik, Jorge Henrique and Romarinho up front and are about to sign Alexandre Pato from AC Milan. But as Boca cannot afford to sign the player outright, they’re likely to suggest a player-plus-cash transaction, the player in question being Luis Viatri.
The 25-year-old Viatri has a pair of Argentine titles to his name to go along with the 2011-12 Copa Argentina but played only 14 games last term, scoring just five goals.
José wanted Lucas Moura: Real Madrid manager José Mourinho had hoped to sign Lucas Moura during the summer transfer period but, according to Spanish daily Marca, was denied the necessary funds by club president Florentino Perez, who allocated much Madrid’s transfer money to the acquisition of Luka Modric.
Marca claims the power struggle—which Perez won—is at the root of Mourinho’s current unhappiness at the Bernabeu, especially as he was told he would have significant influence regarding personnel moves when he joined Madrid from Inter Milan in 2010.
Elkeson moves to China: While Nicolas Anelka is likely to leave China in January with Didier Drogba hot on his heels (both players represented ninth-place Shanghai Shenua last season), the Super League will welcome another foreigner in 2013 with the addition of playmaker Elkeson, who on Sunday agreed a €5.7 million move from Brazilian side Botafogo to Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
At Guangzhou Elkeson, 23, will be managed by World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi and play alongside fellow Brazilians Paulão, Cléo and Muirqui and Argentine midfielder Dario Conca, who is one of the highest-paid footballers in the world. Former Borussia Dortmund marksman Lucas Barrios is also at the club, although he is thought to be headed elsewhere in January as well.